LONDON - When they speak of those who display greatness, of a state of superiority and possessing qualities to be better than all others, they rarely include any mention of regret.
People shouldn’t have to apologize for being so good.
“We’re not going to start losing just to make them feel better back home,” Geno Auriemma said. “The reason they don’t think there is any competition is because they don’t have to be here playing.”
Well, that and the streak and the fact his team beats people like a soldier in the drum line at Changing of the Guard.
The United States is terrific at many things when it comes to the Olympics, but none more so than women’s basketball, which won its fifth straight gold medal on Saturday night and hasn’t lost a game in this competition since 1992. That’s 41 straight Olympic wins over two decades.
The latest was an 86-50 victory against France in the final at North Greenwich Arena, a blowout that on my best day I couldn’t describe in a more succinct manner than French point guard Celine Dumerc: “We knew we had no chance against USA. They were here to show us that.”
The chip you notice Auriemma as head coach and his collection of the world’s best female players walk around with points directly to the American fan, to its obvious indifference when it comes to this sport every four years.
For the most part, we ignore it in favor of watching and supporting the darlings of gymnastics or drama queens of soccer, regarding women’s basketball much like the Soviets probably did the Red Army hockey team. It was only news when they lost, and it took a miracle for that to happen.
But basketball is a global sport, so no matter how dominant the Americans continue to be, we are not being led down the road of softball, eliminated from the Olympics in small part because few nations play it and in large part because the United States was so much better than most everyone who does.
When it comes to women’s basketball in the States, the sword has two edges. One is that America is good enough that it can assemble a team in the middle of the WNBA season, practice for 10-12 days and roll to the gold medal of a tournament in which its closest game was 13 points. The other is that these same women compete in a nation where the world’s best male players perform, and a market that can’t get enough of the millionaires who fly above the rim isn’t going to treat and support and follow those who dribble below it in a similar way.
“The perception at home is there is no way we’ll ever lose,” Auriemma said. “I think the greatness of these ladies is taken for granted. They take pride in the expectations on them and work very hard to make it look easy, because it’s not easy.”
I know the tears of three-time gold medalist Diana Taurasi were real Saturday night. I know it’s special for a player like Maya Moore to join three of her teammates (Taurasi, Swin Cash and Sue Bird) as players who have won titles in college, the WNBA, the FIBA worlds and the Olympics. I know Candace Parker (21 points, 11 rebounds against France) is more fundamentally sound than most NBA players.
I know when Taurasi says she would sign up for a fourth Olympics today if guaranteed a spot because nothing in her career has meant more than representing her country, Americans should be proud.
But they desire what they’re never going to receive at home, attention on par with other women’s sports that aren’t nearly as successful internationally. Hope Solo takes to Twitter and stories flood the internet. Jordyn Wieber doesn’t qualify for the all-around competition and Americans whine about what they perceive as unfair rules. Lolo Jones finishes fourth and sprints onto the set of the “Today Show.”
America’s most dominant team at the Olympics once again remains short on theatrics, doesn’t create negative news off the court and wins at rate no one can match, and will be tomorrow’s news before tomorrow arrives.
It’s reality and yet also a level of supremacy for which the U.S. players should never, ever apologize.
“They are stronger, quicker, more skilled, better on offense and defense, better at everything,” France coach Pierre Vincent said. “My team is exhausted after (playing) them. I hope to play them again.”
Isn’t that just like the French, desiring a battle they simply can’t win.
Ed Graney is a sports columnist for the Las Vegas Review-Journal. He also is writing an Olympics blog at www.lvrj.com/blogs/graney Follow him on Twitter @edgraney He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org